GAITHERSBURG — City Council hopeful Jim McNulty says his commitment to public service began after the Montgomery County Police saved his life in 2010.
A longtime media producer, McNulty was working at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring when he and two others were taken hostage at gunpoint. The hostage-taker, John Jay Lee, was eventually fatally shot by the SWAT team.
"That brush with my mortality gave me a newfound perspective on what is truly important in life," McNulty said. He subsequently founded The Upper Room, a support group for veterans and victims of violent crime who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. He joined Gaithersburg's Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee and was elected president of the Saybrooke Homeowner's Association.
When Jud Ashman was appointed mayor following Sidney Katz's election to the County Council, McNulty said, he was interested in applying to serve the balance of Ashman's final term on the Council, but he ultimately did not submit his name for that vacancy, which went to current Council Vice President Neil H. Harris.
After longtime Council Member Henry F. Marraffa died in October of 2016 following a protracted illness, McNulty was selected as one of five finalists to serve the balance of his final term, but the position ultimately went to Yvette Monroe. He has filed to run for one of the two City Council seats up for election this fall, which are currently held by Monroe and Michael Sesma, both of whom are running for re-election.
As Saybrooke Homeowner's Association president, McNulty has testified several occasions before the body to which he is now seeking election. In early 2016, McNulty and several other Saybrooke residents testified before Ashman and the Council about disturbances in their neighborhood. They stated that non-residents were leaving their cars unattended, sometimes for days at a time, on Victory Farm Drive, in addition to littering and harassing residents. McNulty said that after the police department implemented new regulations in response to this, the quality of life improved dramatically.
"It just shows what you can accomplish when neighbors get together and get energized," McNulty said. "My campaign is very much a grassroots effort."
McNulty said that if elected, increasing school capacity will be a priority. He said the overcrowding of Gaithersburg's schools was a key factor in his decision to enroll his children at St. Martin of Tours School.
"Not everyone has that option, and so we urgently need to address school overcrowding on both sides of the city now," McNulty said. "The County is the major player, but it's taking too long. We need to be a bit more forceful with the County, ask them to accelerate the process or see if there's some way that the city can take the lead on the issue. We need to be open to any and all ideas to ensure that city can meet our kids' needs now, and not in six years."
McNulty said improving traffic would be another priority.
"This transportation networks in this area were originally designed, understandably, with Washington, D.C. in mind as the center, but Gaithersburg has become a center of industry in its own right," McNulty said. "I'd like to see MARC trains in both directions every day." McNulty said that he believed improving traffic in the city would help to revitalize depressed areas in the city, such as Olde Towne, LakeForest, and the 355 corridor.
"Hershey's Drycleaners recently closed after 66 years," McNulty said. "I talked with one of the owners and they said they just couldn't keep it up. They said the city promised to do something but never did. Maryland is already, I believe, the third-worst state in the country to run a small business, so we shouldn't throw any additional obstacles in their way."
McNulty said that, because receiving mental health care in the wake of his hostage experience was a key component of his being able to move on with his life, he would work to ensure access to mental health care through public projects.
"I believe I would bring a new voice and skill set to the city,' McNulty said. "As a producer, a big part of my job is being a problem solver."